Monday, April 6, 2015

E is for editing

First draft, second draft. Write, rewrite. History records many many introspective thoughts made by writers as they look back on the time spent at the editing desk that was once their writing desk. Myself now included.

There really is no other way to learn writing other than by doing it. The consequence of writing then is that you now have something to edit. I admire writing for the near miracle that it is. The brain's ability to consume sugars, connect synapses, and adjust neurons all in the name of original thought, to me, is the most impressive display of biology there is. In the case of writing fiction, even in the presence of research material, that ability to take nothing, or perhaps a few tidbits of data and make that into something, is beyond description. How your brain does that is simply amazing.

Along comes editing after the fact of writing. Maybe editing is the coach to the raw talent that is on display in writing. Taking the raw bits and applying some polish, starting with the roughest grit and gradually working your way up through finer and finer grits as you get close to that final polished mirror-like surface in which the writer's true intent is finally displayed staring back at the reader.

By way of analogy, I write this a couple days after Wisconsin beat Kentucky to advance to the championship round of the NCAA 2015 men's basketball tourney. Sam Dekker is a native son bringing tremendous raw athleticism to the UW Badger's program. Now in his junior year, Dekker is emerging as the big, fast, point-scoring horse that UW has needed to get over the hump. Dekker lore includes numerous anecdotes about the dour, old coach grinding him down, the coach seeking to expunge all of the extraneous bits of athleticism that Dekker brought to the program, leaving only the slow, methodical bits favored by the crusty old throwback coach. To some extent that is editing, although I hope to leave the excitement on the page instead of the cutting room floor.

I love basketball. It is a central theme in New Grass Growing, the follow-on book to River and Ranch. I've always appreciated basketball as a running and scoring game, which is a chunk of the talents that Dekker brings to UW. The girl's game, in particular, has devolved into this grinding, plodding, physical game based on defense, which also seems to be what an increasing number of men's games are featuring. Defense sucks. UW's plodding, slow, half court-based game barely qualifies as entertainment. A point that Gino Auriemma, the UConn women's coach, recently trotted out, by the way.

Anyway, editing is to writing as coaching is to raw talent. It's a process of refining, of paring away the extraneous fluff, leaving only the bare, but well-written necessities on display. Much like what Bo Ryan is doing with this year's edition of the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team. As much as I do not like Coach Ryan's style, he has taken the abundant raw talents of the young men on his current team and channeled them into a team playing for a championship. He has edited the first round of writing and turned it into a polished piece worth reading that tonight will be on display in the largest of release parties, the NCAA men's basketball tournament championship. Featuring the first year writing of Sam Dekker honed into polished manuscript that is now Sam Dekker playing for a championship.

adieu jusqu'à demain.

1 comment:

  1. I used to hate editing back when I was at the beginning of my career, but now I love it. I love the way stories evolve and improve. If anything, I hate first drafts now as my inner editor wars to fix things now rather than later. ;)
    --Raven Oak
    (#1207 in A-Z Challenge and SF/F Author)